Spend a few minutes with Liz Kase, vice president of human resources, and you immediately feel at ease.
She cuts straight to the point and inserts her dry humor frequently. As a senior leader in human resources at PPD, she tackles massive organizational changes, advises executives and leads complex enterprise-wide projects. We sat down with Liz to learn more about her career, her views on leadership and why she was drawn to PPD.
How did you get into human resources?
I haven’t had a typical HR career path. I started my career in management consulting and became interested in corporate change. Through that, I migrated to HR consulting and found I have a passion for operating at the intersection of strategy and organization. There is a lot of opportunity in that space. I’ve only officially been in HR for the past five years. With my background PPD took a chance on hiring me as an HR executive.
What makes you a successful leader?
Early in my career I assumed that people experienced things the way I did, but I found I was mistaken. My father always told me you must put yourself in the other person’s shoes and he was right. I try to treat people at work as I would my friends and family, thinking about their perspectives and how information may be perceived. My career has focused on bringing change through organizations. The most important part of that — as well as leading — is listening and asking questions.
My biggest focus in leading others is helping people realize their own untapped potential. I started my career as a consultant, which is an industry that relies on an apprenticeship model. There was a vibrant and open intellectual atmosphere and a commitment to excellence. Not only did I learn from the individuals who mentored me, but I also really learned from the people who worked for me. Everyone feels pressure to be the one who knows all the answers, but the power of the team is so much more than the power of one. It’s important to be open to learning from every direction and treat every experience as a learning opportunity.
I also like to take risks on people and let them surprise themselves. I’m a firm believer that it is more productive to push people and give them confidence in themselves rather than try to control them. Nine times out of ten people deliver more than you expect.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
It is challenging to sit in a boardroom or on an executive team and be the only woman or one of two women in the room. That can be intimidating. I’ve always approached those situations as we are all colleagues and we have different, valuable perspectives. If I’m confident and open to others’ ideas, we can all work well together.
I also have two small children and I had to dial down my career for a period. You have to figure out ways to navigate your own career. It is important to work for and with people who are receptive to that. No one can operate at the same pace throughout their career. Finding a place that understands that and flexes with you is key. It’s also important to flex with your teams. You never want to lose good talent because they need to focus on something outside of work.
At PPD I have the right level of flexibility in my life to be there for the moments that matter, and my management supports that. I know that I can make it to a school meeting and have a real genuine focus on family, which is so important to everyone, whatever your family may look like. The flexibility helps me feel like I can balance being a mother to two small boys and be an executive at a company.
My husband is a professor and we moved from Los Angeles to Wilmington when he accepted a position at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Before joining PPD, I worked remotely. This meant I was now working from a home office, missing the face-to-face time I previously had with my colleagues. With PPD I not only have the opportunity to work in an office, but I’m also at the global headquarters. I’m able to spend time directly with many of my colleagues, as well as members of the senior leadership team.
I was excited about joining PPD because of its mission. I feel like if we can unleash the potential of our colleagues, it has a direct impact in helping to save lives. We can help grow the skills and commitment of our people in a way that really helps the world. It’s a traditional industry, and driving change is an exciting challenge.
To learn more about opportunities with PPD, visit our careers site.